5371 Ehrlich Road, Tampa, FL - Carrollwood Square
Way back when, only a month after I first launched AFB, I opened my blog inbox and was thrilled to see a new email staring back at me. Back then, the AFB mailbox was pretty quiet, so getting a new message was quite the ordeal for me (and acted as confirmation that someone else is actually reading this crazy little website of mine!). That email was my very first piece of Albertsons-related fan mail, and was a question about this very store - former Albertsons #4380 in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa. To the person who sent me that email almost 9 years ago now, if you've stuck with me and still read the blog, thank you again for writing in, and I'm sorry it's taken me until now to write the post about this store! Please enjoy!
Picking up where we left off last time, we just finished taking a look at former Albertsons #4406, the short-lived former Jewel-Oscosons 2.5 miles to the east of here in the Carrollwood Commons Shopping Center. While Albertsons was down the road trying to absorb that old Jewel-Osco into their systems, over here a few miles to the west Albertsons was trying to deal with a permitting nightmare to get store #4380 off the ground. Originally announced in 1988 with a projected opening in 1989, Albertsons was looking to build a new store in a grassy field at the northwestern corner of Ehrlich and Turner Roads. Unfortunately for Albertsons, the parcel they wanted to build on was split into multiple pieces with different owners, leading to the nearly 8-year delay in construction. Not only did Albertsons have to get all the different owners to cooperate in selling their land, Albertsons also had to get some of the pieces rezoned to allow for the construction of a grocery store, another lengthy process on top of another. In the time it took to get store #4380 off the ground, #4406 down the road already crashed and burned. I can't help but wonder if Albertsons' pursuit to build this store also factored into #4406's quick demise, with Albertsons knowing this one would eventually be built, rendering #4406 redundant in the end anyway.
Finally, in March 1996, Albertsons was given the green light to begin construction on store #4380, bringing some truth to the long-standing coming soon sign that graced this property for 8 years. It's quite impressive Albertsons stuck with this site for as long as they did in face of all the challenges, and didn't try to look elsewhere for their new store (or use #4406 as an easy way around the hassle of trying to get #4380 off the ground). Albertsons must have believed in this site, although in the end, I wouldn't call #4380 the astounding success Albertsons was probably hoping for (it certainly lasted longer than #4406 down the road, but something about this part of town never worked in Albertsons' favor).
Given the 8 year delay in construction, Albertsons redrew the plans for store #4380 before construction began in spring 1996. Instead of the 1980's Superstore building originally intended for the site, #4380 opened as standard mid-1990's store. In the linked article, the Albertsons representative described #4380 as a "basic store" at 50,000 square feet, with a 3,000 square foot attached liquor store.
Albertsons eventually got this store open in early 1997 after all those years of hassle and delay, just for this store to close 9 years later in 2006 - meaning store #4380 was in the planning process for almost the same amount of time it was open to customers. 9 years in business is still much better than the approximately 15 months #4406 lasted down the street, but it still seems like a bit of a flop considering all the effort Albertsons put into getting this store open in the first place. Thankfully, all of Albertsons efforts weren't put to waste. Only a few months after closing, it was announced in February 2007 that Publix had signed a lease to open a new store in Albertsons' former spot, the new Publix store to open that fall. As Tampa Bay's first Publixsons, this store must have been a preview for what was to come. Less than a year after this store opened, Publix agreed to buy those 49 stores from Albertsons, a large chunk of which were in the Tampa Bay area.
Making it to the store's front walkway, we can now immerse ourselves in plenty of 1990's Albertsons relics. The only major changes Publix made to the exterior were repainting the building and replacing Albertsons' old swinging doors with sliding ones (both typical practices for Publix, even in the laziest of conversions)
To the left of the entrance is the enclosed cart storage area, one of the defining characteristics for these mid-1990's Albertsons stores.
We've seen plenty of the exterior, so let's step through these doors and see what relics from supermarket past might be lurking inside...
Stepping inside, here's a look back toward the front doors. Upon entering the store, you're funneled into the bakery and floral departments. Considering how spread out this store is, Publix dedicated a lot of space in here to tables of baked goods! The bakery counter itself is located behind me, with floral along the front wall next to the entrance.
The conversion of Albertsons #4380 was a moderate-effort affair from Publix. Publix dressed up the service departments with new tile backsplashes and opted for the nicer faux terrazzo floors instead of the checkered vinyl tiles, but left the service departments in their original Albertsons configuration and design. A fancier conversion would have seen Publix rebuild the service departments to more of their liking, and some cheaper ones even left remains of Albertsons decor blatantly on the walls! (That link provided isn't even the best example of such - we'll see better examples of cheap Publix conversions on the blog before too long...)
The bakery is located in the front left corner of the building, still using the original Albertsons bakery design. Publix did dress up this department with new tile and signage to make it more Publix-like, but a more elaborate conversion would have made the bakery in one of these stores look more like this.
One last look at the bakery counter, before we move along to produce:
Between the bakery and deli (located behind me) is produce, the center of Albertsons' "grand aisle". To make the grand aisle feel a little more grand, the later mid-1990's build Albertsons stores used an open ceiling around the perimeter of the store, with only the center grocery aisles featuring a drop ceiling. That design (which Kash n' Karry used in the 1990's, and fancier modern Publix stores use today) creates an interesting effect that tries to create an emphasis on the fresh products, with the dry groceries in their own little world in the center of the store.
The mid-1990's Albertsons stores built with this hybrid ceiling design opened with the Blue and Green Awnings decor, which I'd imagine this store kept for its entire 9 year run. Publix opened this store in late 2007, which was right around the transition from Classy Market 1.0 to Classy Market 2.0. From this lone photo I found from 2011, it appears the colors on the wall in the background better match CM 2.0 than CM 1.0's more sedate pastel look, so this must have been an early CM 2.0 store. The CM 2.5 decor we see in here today was installed by 2013, and from what I understand, is still in place currently. Nearing 10 years since its last remodel, this store will probably be getting a remodel to Evergreen soon. At least I hope that's the plan, and not Publix's other option for odd stores they've intertied that retain older decor packages...
The CM 2.5 decor looks really nice in this store (and actually, it probably looks a lot better than Blue and Green Awnings would have). Due to those pipes in the way from the refrigeration units, the wall signs and props for the produce decor are floating out from the wall, which has a much nicer 3D effect than if all that stuff was mounted to the wall like it usually is.
Beyond produce is the deli counter, or first glimpse of which can be seen above.
What we see here is considered aisle 1. While produce branches off to the side of this aisle, those coolers to my right are home to dairy products. It seems like an odd placement for dairy products, but the remainder of the dairy department picks up to the right of the deli counter, so it that way it makes sense in relation to the flow of the store.
Much like the bakery, the deli still retains its original shape and configuration from the Albertsons days.
As you can tell, that pole wasn't doing me any favors!
A busy afternoon pictured here at the Publix deli. If you hit the Publix deli at the wrong time, you'll be waiting here a long time for your Pub Sub. Even worse is if you get stuck behind someone ordering sandwiches for their entire office, because at that point you can consider your entire lunch break shot.
From this angle we get a less-obstructed look at the deli counter. The deli is almost always the busiest part of any Publix store at any given time of day, so it's always the most frustrating part of the store to get good photos of!
Spinning around from the deli, we find the remainder of the dairy department picking up on the back wall, with the grocery aisles off to my right.
The dairy signage here is a different variant to the standard CM 2.5 dairy signage, which looks like this. This "stacked" variant of the CM 2.5 department signs seem to pop up randomly here and there, as we spotted the produce version of the stacked CM 2.5 signage back at old #4372 in Sarasota.
Turning into the grocery aisles, the drop ceiling appears above us. The drop ceiling really gives off a "store within a store" effect for the grocery aisles.
Here's a quick look across the front end, with the check lanes and pharmacy visible in the distance. We'll see more from up here later in the post, but for now, back into the grocery aisles we go:
On my recent post about former Albertsons #4332, The Sing Oil Blogger left an interesting statement in his comment about that post, saying "I’m much more accustomed to seeing an Albertsons with Publix décor than an Albertsons with Albertsons décor -- the latter just feels wrong to me now!" I feel where he's coming from too with that statement - I've been to and looked at so many pictures of Publixsons stores lately, it seems weird to think Blue and Green Awnings used to be in here! For a rough idea of what that decor would have looked like in here, here's some photos of a semi-preserved mid-1990's Albertsons in Houston with some remnants of that decor in a similar building to this one.
Returning to the store's back wall, here's a look from dairy toward meats and seafood. The pre-packaged meats begin where the wall color changes to red, with the seafood service counter in the back right corner in the distance.
Frozen foods are located in the center of this store, taking up half of aisles 6 and 8, and the entirety of aisle 7. Pictured above is aisle 6, the first of the two half-aisles of frozen foods.
Aisle 7, the lone full aisle of frozen foods.
I feel like it would have made more sense to have two full aisles of frozen foods (rather than the arrangement in place here), but I'm not the one who laid out this store, so Gatorade and ice cream it is! (A refreshing summer combo, look for it at a Publix near you!)
Getting closer to the pharmacy counter, we find this aisle of health and beauty products. There are more short aisles of pharmaceuticals in front of the pharmacy counter itself, with this aisle acting as overflow for all the products that didn't make the cut for the aisles closest to the counter.
A lot of greeting cards here in aisle 11...
We're getting closer to the meat and seafood counter in the back right corner, and we'll take a closer look at those departments after snaking our way through the last few grocery aisles:
Pet supplies here in aisle 12...
…and skipping along to aisle 15, we find ourselves in the soda, tea, and juice aisle.
Like dairy, the meat department's sign is also of the "stacked" CM 2.5 variety, meat and dairy being the only two such style signs in this store. The spotlight washes out the sign pretty bad in this image, but a few photos back you can get a slightly clearer look at this sign (although the angle isn't the best).
The seafood counter. I'm not sure what's going on with the seafood counter here, but it looks like Publix is covering over some old tile (probably from Albertsons) with a gray material.
After the seafood counter, we turn the corner into aisle 17, the store's last aisle, home to beer and wine. While Publix did install a "Wine" department sign, the sign should really be on the other side of the aisle, as the coolers are home to cases of beer instead. I guess this really isn't a true goof, as Wine is still in this aisle, but it's probably the closest we'll ever get to seeing Publix do something like this.
Leaving aisle 17, we return to the front of the store to finish out our tour. But before we leave, we still have the pharmacy and the front end to look at, so let's start with the pharmacy first:
The front right corner of the building is home to a few short aisles of pharmaceuticals, as I mentioned before, with the pharmacy counter itself along the front wall (just out of frame behind me). I'm not really sure who set the endcaps here, but Bang energy drinks seem like an odd choice to feature at the front of an HBA aisle.
The pharmacy counter can be seen poking out to my right in the above photo, under that curved awning.
The pharmacy counter is the one department Publix heavily modified to their liking, as the curved design of the awning is a Publix thing, not an Albertsons thing. Here we see the pharmacy counter itself straight ahead, with customer service and the front end straight ahead.
Leaving the pharmacy, we now find ourselves by the check lanes. This store had 8 regular check lanes in addition to a bank of self-checkouts at the opposite end, a relatively new addition to the store at the time of my visit.
From the other end of the check lanes, here we can see the self-checkouts. In a lot of cases Publix waits until a store's Evergreen remodel to install the self-checkout lanes, but I have seen a few stores (like this one) get the self-checkouts well before a remodel began.
Over the front end, we find the famous CM 2.0/CM 2.5 vintage photo collage. With only around 100 Publix stores left with CM 2.5 (and none with CM 2.0), these collages have gotten harder to find, with most being unceremoniously removed and discarded in remodels. I always thought these collages were a fun touch, even if the same pictures were used in every store.
Customer service was still located in Albertsons' original spot along the front wall, and not moved into an island next to the check lanes by Publix.
So following that quick peek at the service desk, we've looked at everything we needed to in here. Out these doors we go for some final photos of the exterior before we wrap things up here:
Back outside, here's a look down the front walkway toward the right side of the building. That awning in the distance belongs to the liquor store, which is where we'll be heading.
The liquor store found its home on the right side of the building, the typical mid-1990's attached liquor store.
As with a lot of these late 1990's and early 2000's built Publixsons stores, most of these have now been Publix stores for longer than they ever were an Albertsons. As of when this post was written, Publix has been in this building for 15 years now compared to Albertsons' 9 years, yet again proving that one chain's failures can be another's success.
Extending to the left of the supermarket building are the 8 or so storefronts that make up Carrollwood Square, featuring a lot of your usual suburban strip mall tenants (Chinese takeout place, pizza shop, cell phone store, etc.).
And lastly, here's a look at one of the plaza's distinctively Albertsons road signs.
With our tour complete, let's wrap up this post with aerial imagery, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial views courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:
Former Albertsons #4380 - 2019
Former Albertsons #4380 - 2008
Former Albertsons #4380 - 2007 - Still an empty building here
Albertsons #4380 - 2006
Albertsons #4380 - 2002
Albertsons #4380 - 1998 - A nice new store here, the product of many years of zoning hassles.
Future Albertsons #4380 - 1995 - The land is empty here, although Albertsons' plans are in the works for this property.
One final look at former Albertsons #4380 will conclude today's post, one of two short-lived Albertsons stores that tried to establish a presence for the company in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa.
While there are plenty more relics of Albertsons lurking around Tampa that we can explore, we'll come back to those another time, as next time on AFB we're off to a different part of Florida to tour a really fun former Albertsons store. That post will go live on Tuesday, December 6th, AFB's 9th anniversary on the web. You know I usually try to save something really good for the anniversary post, so be sure to come back then for a fun post!
So until next time,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger